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Dwayne Kohn


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"Parents love the daily email newsletter," reports Dwayne Kohn. "I have more than 40 names on the list, representing 27 of my 32 students. Divorced spouses both receive the information. In addition to parents, there are grandparents too. They love to see what their grandchildren are doing. The parents love the fact that they know exactly what is going on in the classroom each day, almost as it happens."

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A typical daily newsletter from Kohn's classroom at Breeze Hill Elementary School in Vista, California, contains a review of what students did in class that day, a preview of coming activities, a "classroom needs" list for upcoming projects, an explanation of the assigned homework, and other games parents can play with their children at home. Other items -- such as upcoming school events, a listing of students who have earned a classroom "Wall of Fame" certificate for special achievements, thank-you notes to parent volunteers, and photos of the kids also might be included. Kohn publishes a weekly printed newsletter each Friday and special printed notices when needed so everyone receives the important news, not just those who are online.

"We have one father in the Navy who can see what his daughter is doing in kindergarten from his submarine on the other side of the world," Kohn told Education World. "Whenever parents send us pictures for our photo wall, I share them with everyone by sending out one or two along with the e-mail. That allows me to thank the parent for the pictures, share them, and get other parents to send in their pictures too."

Kohn uses his newsletter to appeal for classroom supplies. When a request appears in the message, he often receives the needed items the very next day. On a few occasions, when hes asked for snacks for students to enjoy during recess, parents dropped the treats off that afternoon when they came to pick up their children. With two daily sessions of students, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, the e-mail message is also helpful when last-minute scheduling changes occur. Kohn even relies on e-mail to invite parents to last-minute assemblies or events.

"When we ask for party supplies, for example, parents can sign up online," he explained. "I send out the list of what we need -- paper plates, forks, napkins, punch, fruit, etc. -- and parents e-mail me to identify what they can bring. I update the list each day in the e-mail newsletter, noting which items already have been promised, and we end up with exactly what we need. That also works for art supplies, volunteers, and more. Parents love signing up online, and we don't have any lost notes from kids or miscommunications."

To save time, Kohn starts with a basic template for his newsletter. He uses the same title and graphics each day, with headers like "Tonight's Homework," "Today in Class," and "Upcoming Events." Then he updates the text.

"You can add attachments, class photos, and other items [to an e-mail newsletter], but don't make it too long or parents won't read it," Kohn advised. "Change the content each day. Other than a calendar of events, don't send out the same material more than once or parents will assume nothing is new and not read it when you do change it. If nothing is new that day, don't send out a newsletter, or just send out a brief note stating that nothing is new. In kindergarten, though, there is always something new each day!"

For privacy purposes, recipients' names and e-mail addresses can be undisclosed. Kohn has chosen not to hide this information because parents of his students use e-mail to chat, schedule play dates, and send invitations to birthday parties. Parents especially appreciate that they can contact Kohn via email at any time.

"The daily e-mail newsletter is a great way to get parents more involved in the classroom," he reported. "You can reward volunteers by mentioning them in the news, such as 'Thank you to Tom's mom for coming in today.' Not only will that parent respond to the positive praise, the attention often encourages others to become involved."

Regular e-mail communication also helps the class academically, Kohn believes. He notes that when students are congratulated for reaching a specific milestone, other parents often work with their children to help them achieve the same goal.

Kohn added, "The best part about the daily e-mail is that it takes only about 15 minutes, and it allows me to reflect on the day and prepare for the next day's activities."

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

02/09/2007